Monday, September 24, 2012

Buñuelos - A Nicaraguan Treat

Buñuelos - León, Nicaragua
Our neighbours continue to introduce us to some of their delicious food. When we saw these little goodies for sale we couldn't wait to try them. They looked like little Timbits (a treat we could buy in Canada from Tim Hortons)! Mistakenly, we thought that they were made with corn - but no, apparently they are made with yuca!

We got them in a little baggie with a sweet syrup spooned on top.When I first took a bite of one of them it reminded me of the honey cruellers that we would get at Tim Hortons - a little crunchy on the outside but with a very soft, moist inside.  

A bag of 12 only cost 10 cordobas!

I found a video that shows how easy they are to make. Los Buñuelos de Yuca The video is in Spanish but I think it is easy to follow along.  The recipe is:

To make the syrup you will need:
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
some cinnamon sticks
juice of 1 lime

To make the dough you will need:
2 cups Yuca peeled and grated
1 cup cheese - dry and grated (white cheese)
1 egg
Oil sufficient to fry

Sometimes ripe banana is added to the dough instead of the cheese.

I personally am looking forward to making these for our next party. Let me know if you make them and how they turn out!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Have your shoes shined in León, Nicaragua

Walking the streets of León is dusty business and it takes a huge toll on your shoes. No worries though because there are many locations throughout the city that you can sit down, relax and have your shoes cleaned and shined professionally - all for only 10 cordobas!

We were walking past the park in front of the San Juan Church and there were a least 5 men waiting for the opportunity to clean your shoes. When we asked the fellow in the picture how much he would charge he immediately gave us gringo pricing - 15 cordobas. When we told him that the guy next to him was only going to charge us 10 cordobas he quickly changed his tune - it pays to know what the going rate is!

The convenience of not having to buy and store multiple colours of shoe polish as well as supporting the local economy are additional reasons for having your shoes shined by a professional. Don't worry if you don't know where the San Juan church is because there are many "roving" shoe shiners all over downtown and they do a wonderful job too!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Where do you go in Leon, Nicaragua for that special dinner?

El Meson Real Restaurant -  Leon, Nicaragua
A few weeks back we had some guests visiting from Granada. They had heard some good things about El Meson Real and wanted to see for themselves if it lived up to their reputation. We decided to tag along since we had also heard what a great place it was.

El Meson Real is a small place - there only seemed to be about 10 - 15 tables. The menu is written on a chalk board which you see when you enter the restaurant. On your right is a long counter  where Chef Gustavo creates the restaurants signature dish - Paella. Although no one at our table ordered the Paella it looked and smelled delicious!

The menu has a nice blend of seafood, beef and fresh fish (I don't recall if there was any chicken on the menu). I opted for the Churasco Steak with Chimichurri and Pat chose a filet of grouper. Both meals were absolutely the best we have had so far in León - I wish I knew where he purchased his beef from because it was so tender. Most of the entrees are priced around $200 cordobas - they would be far more back home! The price of our meals, drinks and tip came to about $700 cordobas. A nice touch was that Chef Gustavo personally cleared our plates and inquired whether we had enjoyed our meal.

The only complaints we have in regard to our experience was that their website indicates that there is a 2 for 1 Mojito and Sangria special from 5-7 pm.  We arrived just before 7pm and inquired about the special but the waitress said that they no longer had it. The other thing was that we weren't asked if we would like any dessert or coffee. However, neither of these things dampened our enjoyment of the meal.

So... if you are looking for that "special" restaurant or you just feel like a splurge you won't be disappointed if you head to El Meson Real.  You can find them at:

Parque Ruben Dario 220 vrs. al NorteLeonNicaragua

Chef Gustavo making Paella at El Meson Real - Leon, Nicaragua

Churasco with Chimichurri Sauce at El Meson Real - Leon, Nicaragua

Grouper (veggies were on a separate plate) at El Meson Real - Leon, Nicaragua

Friday, September 14, 2012

Passport Stamps and travel within the C-4

We recently traveled with a group of 33 friends from León, Nicaragua to San Salvador, El Salvador via the border crossing at Guasale, Nicaragua.

Generally speaking the border crossings were easy and uncomplicated as long as your paperwork was in order. There is a $2.00 US exit fee from Nicaragua and a $3.00 US entrance and exit fee for Honduras (foreigners only). There was no cost to enter or exit El Salvador. We were charged an entry fee when we re-entered Nicaragua of $13.00 US.

So... what happens if your paperwork isn't in order??? Well, it will be a nightmare!

Here is the story:

One member of our group recently lost and replaced their passport while in Nicaragua. That meant that when the passport was inspected at the Nicaraguan border the border official noticed that there was no stamp to indicate when the person had arrived in Nicaragua. It was explained that an extension to the visa had been purchased in Managua on "such and such" date and that subsequently the passport had been lost and replaced. The border officials would not accept the explanation or the fact that the other members in the family had had their visa extended and all 3 had been done on the same day. Finally, it was agreed that the officials would contact Managua when the office opened at 10:00 am.  After repeated phone calls to the Managua office the border official finally accepted the date for the visa extension and allowed the individual to pass through the border to Honduras. Good news, right? Well, Honduran officials didn't like the fact that there was no entry stamp and were not going to let the individual continue through their country. After a LOT of discussion and about 1 1/2 hours later the individual was given permission to continue through the country and on into El Salvador.

There was no problem exiting Honduras but when the passport was examined in El Salvador the same roadblock was encountered. This time there was no flexibility with the decision about the entry stamp. The individual ended up being fined (about $20.00) and was given 5 days to exit the C-4 or risk further penalties. Rather than returning with the group by bus and possibly having the same problems the whole way back to Nicaragua the individual decided to fly out of San Salvador to the US (basically moving a prearranged trip home up a week).

In retrospect it probably would have been wise for the individual to take a trip to the Migración office in Managua and explain the situation about the replaced passport before attempting to leave the country. They are the only ones who can issue the necessary stamp (or at least that is what we were told).

In spite of this complication the trip was very enjoyable. If you decide to take a trip out of Nicaragua and explore the C-4 go and enjoy it - just be sure all of your paperwork is in order.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rental House Search in León - How easy is it?

Recently we received an email from one of our readers who was looking for a furnished house to rent here in León. They had read our previous blog about our search and discovery of our little house that we found online (you can read about it by clicking here). They checked out the online websites to look for a small rental but they weren't able to find anything available. I wasn't very surprised that they couldn't find anything available online because most of the available houses are NEVER listed.  León has a lot of "rooms" available for students (after all it is a University town) but very few furnished, vacation and long-term rental homes (unlike Granada which has a lot of homes to choose from).

So how can you find out about available rental homes in León? Simply put - you have to conduct your search at ground level.... This means walking around a neighborhood that you like and looking for signs that say "For Rent" or in Spanish "Se Aquila" or "Se Renta". Be prepared that you may walk through an entire neighborhood and see no signs posted but that doesn't mean that there aren't any homes available... So how do you find these hidden gems? You have to ask around. Talk to the families that run the local pulperia. They usually know what is happening on their street. Ask people in the neighborhood - people you pass on the street. For example, we saw the house that is pictured below and stopped to photograph it and a passerby told us that it  was still for rent but that it is also rented furnished. Often times they know someone that has a house available.

You may find that it can take a few days or weeks of combing the streets so be patient - you can find what you are looking for.

House for rent in Guadalupe

Monday, September 3, 2012

Taco Mible Restaurant, León, Nicaragua

We LOVE Mexican food! If we hadn't moved to Nicaragua we would have moved to Mexico solely for their delicious cuisine.

We have walked past Taco Mible many times and I must admit it doesn't have a very appealing look from the outside.... but, looks can be deceiving as we have found out. We finally broke down and tried this little place about a block and a half up from the Poet's Corner. The menu is limited but definitely has some of our favorite Mexican dishes.

The interior is nothing fancy and there are only a few tables. The service was quick and the food was hot and delicious. The day we visited they didn't have any pop available so we had licuados instead. They offered you a choice of fruit combinations and the resulting drinks were delicious.

In our opinion Taca Mible has the best Mexican food that we have tasted here in León. If you decide to give Taco Mible a try, please leave us a comment and let us know what you think of it.

Interior of Taco Mible
Flautas at Taco Mible
Shrimp Quesadillas at Taco Mible
Menu from Taco Mible

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hotel El Casino, Casares, Nicaragua

Hotel El Casino is a cute, boutique hotel on the pacific coast of Nicaragua. It is located in an authentic fishing village where the day to day action happens right in front of you.

This hotel only has twelve rooms but is a great value at only $25.00 a night ($35.00 if you want air conditioning). The rooms aren't large but they have everything you need. There is a ceiling fan if you choose not to have air conditioning but be warned that it may not be enough if you have a room facing the ocean. The ocean front rooms get the afternoon sun and can be quite warm at the end of the day. That being said - you can't beat the view from these rooms! While we were at the hotel they were in the process of expanding the deck from the ocean front rooms which will greatly increase the appeal of them.

Nicaraguan breakfast
Hotel El Casino has a number of sitting areas where you can relax with a good book, enjoy a movie on their projection screen or simply enjoy the company of friends - new and old. Enjoy looking at all the beautiful Nicaraguan art treasures that the owner has brought for your pleasure. There is a pool table should you desire to rack up a game. With an on sight restaurant and bar there is no shortage of delicious food and drink to tempt your appetite. You will especially enjoy the fish dinners cooked fresh from that morning's catch.

We stayed at Hotel El Casino for three nights and took all of our meals in their dining room and on the small beach patio.

It is an easy commute from León using Interlocal buses. You take the small Interlocal at the León bus terminal to La UCA station in Managua. In Managua you switch buses to the Interlocal that is heading to Diriamba (final destination is Jinotepe). When you reach Diriamba you switch to the Interlocal that goes to La Boquita and Casares. The total cost for these buses was only 184 cordobas for the two of us!

We highly recommend this hotel to all budget travelers.

View of Hotel El Casino, Casaras from the beach
View of the bar/kitchen.
View from the second floor, where the rooms are.

Fishermen arriving with their catch.

Enjoy the sunset from the deck at Hotel El Casino, Casares, Nicaragua